By: Cami Swafford
Every day, forty-three children are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. For children nineteen years and younger, cancer is the largest cause of death by disease in America. Cancer beats Asthma, AIDS, Muscular Dystrophy, and Cystic Fibrosis combined. The American Cancer Society estimated that 10,380 American kids under the age of fifteen will receive a life-altering diagnosis in 2016 alone. The average age of these children is only six years old.
Despite these statistics, pediatric cancer only receives four percent of federal funding for cancer research. To put this into a dollar figure, the National Cancer Institute gave approximately $26.4 million to the funding of pediatric cancer, but gave around $584 million to breast cancer alone. In addition to this, the American Cancer Society donates less than one percent of their funds to childhood cancer. Pharmaceutical companies fund virtually nothing for pediatric cancer research, yet fund nearly sixty percent for all adult cancer research. In addition to this, half of the chemotherapies used for pediatric cancer patients are around twenty-five years old.
Typically, treatments that are given to kids with cancer are adult drugs that are given in lower doses to pediatric patients. Since these medications were not designed for children, survivors of pediatric cancer often enter remission with numerous deficits. These include problems with memory and attention, slowed development, loss of vision and hearing, and much more. Survivors may also encounter heart failure in later years and are at a higher risk of developing cancer later in life.
Research plays a vital role in keeping these children alive. In the past fifty years alone, the five-year survival rate in pediatric cancer patients has increased from fifty-eight percent to eighty percent. However, in the past twenty years, the FDA has only approved two drugs for childhood cancer. The largest obstacle that the research of pediatric cancer faces is the lack of funding.
The month of September has been designated as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with gold being the representative color. As a way of raising awareness of the lack of funding for childhood cancer research, a new movement has emerged with the hashtag #MoreThan4. This month, Major League Baseball clubs are going gold by wearing gold-ribbon decals and wristbands. In addition, hundreds of families are sharing the way that pediatric cancer has affected their lives. If more people continue to share their stories, donate to research, or even wear gold during the month of September, this four percent will inevitably change for the better.
Go gold for kids with cancer this September and spread awareness and support, because children battling cancer deserve more than four percent.